Hands up if you ever had an idea for a startup or side project and immediately lost yourself in trying to choose the perfect domain name. While most advice is telling you not to waste too much time on your (domain) name, the reality is that it matters more than one likes to admit.
Good domain names are an asset in itself, they can affect SEO and most importantly they matter to your target audience or customer. How to choose a good domain name is an art in itself.
What’s makes a good domain name?
Let us first establish what makes a good domain name. There are 3 key ingredients to a great domain name.
The first one is length. Short domains are more expensive because there are less of them and almost all decent ones are taken.
Then there is relevance: The domain should say something about what is behind it. So, arguably burgerking.com is better than mcdonalds.com although both companies have managed to establish their brand to a point where that doesn’t matter anymore.
The third important factor is the top-level domain (.com, .net, .io, etc). A .com domain is generally considered the gold standard in domains. That is unless you operate in a specific country, then go for that TLD of course. Your top-level domain can also be a strong signal to your audience. That’s how .xyz domains are now seen as “OG crypto” domains because of their early adoption of blockchain integrations.
So these are the rules for better domains:
- Length: Shorter is better
- Relevance: Tell what’s on offer with keywords
- Top-level domain: .COM is king
Side note: I am well aware that this domain doesn’t do amazing on this criteria: It’s a .com but it’s terribly long and not branded unless you’re looking for me as a person rather than my domain expertise.
Your domain name is an asset
A good domain can affect the success of your project in multiple ways. The first one is obvious but easily missed: Your domain name is an asset. If you own a domain that is scarce and therefore valuable it is an asset that can grow tremendously over time.
It might be a sad reality that you could sink years of work into your project and at the end your domain is the only relevant relict, but that’s exactly what happens more often than not.
Here’s what prise.com founder Philip Brown has to say about your domain as an asset:
I strongly believe a single English dictionary word, 5 character, 1 syllable, .com domain name will not only hold its value, but I will be able to increase its value over time. There's also an element of scarcity. If someone else was to buy the domain name, and either used it on their own project or simply refused to sell it to me. There would be a huge cost to rebranding Prise in the future, which is not just the actual financial cost of the rebrand, but also the brand equity I'd built up around the name.
Domains are relevant for SEO
A good domain can have a positive impact on
Note to search engine crawlers: The strike-through
Good domain names matter to your audience
Good domains have a tremendous impact on your target audience, how they discover, interact and perceive your project is strongly correlated to your domain name.
There are thousands of new products getting launched every single day, and so it’s very important that you are able to stand out from the crowd. Having a strong, succinct brand is a critical part of this. I think this gives the product a lot of credibility..
Can they remember it?
Your domain name needs to be memorable. The topic of top-level domain comes up here again. Because of the scarcity of memorable domains, many builders flock to generic top-level domains like .xzy or .cloud. It’s much easier to get great domain names with such alternative endings. The problem is only that if your audience isn’t sensitised to that specific TLD they won’t remember your brand.
That’s why your average SaaS tool can get away with an .io domain or why the crypto community almost expects .xyz by now. But if you’re targeting non-digital natives a .care domain might do more harm than good because your domain will not even be recognised as a domain.
When the domain does not matter (much)
While we’ve established that good domains generally have a positive impact, there are also cases where squandering on an expensive domain is not really worth it if you:
- are testing something out
- don’t have the money to establish the brand
- can score strong keyword with a longer domain
Picking domains is still the favourite past time of indiehackers and entrepreneurs. And it can definitely pay off with better SEO results, better memorability and as an asset in itself. But it’s more important to avoid terrible domain names than getting the perfect one. When in doubt go with a vague domain name that doesn’t lock you into a single topic too tightly.